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Monday, March 28, 2011

Beware of Greeks bearing strange gifts



Now when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, Telemachus rose and dressed himself. He bound his sandals on to his comely feet, girded his sword about his shoulder, and left his roomlooking like an immortal god. He at once sent the criers round to call the people in assembly, so they called them and the people gathered thereon; then, when they were got together, he went to the place of assembly spear in hand--not alone, for his two hounds went with him. Minerva endowed him with a presence of such divine comeliness that all marvelled at him as he went by, and when he took his place in his father's seat even the oldest councillors made way for him.

-- Odyssey, Book II

"Odyssey Dawn" is at the center of a giant snickerfest; one can almost see the giant "wtf?" coming up in a thought bubble from all points across a stylized map of the world....

A lot of people have remarked that the name given to the bombing of Libya sounds like that of a stripper. Maybe even two strippers. Others have remarked that it evokes dish soap. The conspiracy forums are rampant with speculation about Arthur C. Clarke, the Golden Dawn, the Illuminati....

The Washington Post reported on 22 March that the name means nothing:

“The goal is to create a name that has absolutely nothing to do with the activity of the region, so you could walk down the street in Washington during the planning stages and ensure that nobody knows it’s about Libya,” [Africom spokesman Eric] Elliott said.

Even if "Odyssey Dawn" really is a random phrase with no intended meaning, perhaps it's not the best of all possible monikers; as Wired begins it's report: "The U.S. military’s nickname for the no-fly zone in Libya sounds like the beginning of a long adventure."

Quite so. I don't subscribe to the more fantastic theories about the name, but I doubt that it's completely devoid of intentional meaning or geographical reference.

I presume that the name refers to the Odyssey, something any American high-school student would recognize. For those of who who slept through English class, the Odyssey tells the story of a soldier making his way back home after the Trojan War, events depicted in the Iliad. The hero is a noble named Odysseus, who, with a stout heart, sharp wits and endless persistence, overcomes all obstacles in his quest to be reuinted with his beloved wife and island home of Ithaka. It takes 10 years, but Odysseus never gives up.

So, it may have been a random choice, but it's certainly not meaningless: stout hearts, wits, persistence, victory. Say no more, nudge nudge.

Dawn, of course, has always symbolized the start of a new day. No, wait a minute, dawn is the start of a new day. I mean to say that dawn has always had the metaphorical meaning of a fresh start. The rising sun has often been used a symbol of renewal, the beginning of a golden era. Old news to LoS fans. Again, the symbolism here is not very opaque.

(Without belaboring the point too much, the "Land of the Rising Sun" is Japan, whose ongoing battle against nuclear catastrophe seems to have been eclipsed somewhat in the biggest headlines by this Libyan adventure. Both of these stories revolve around the disastrous consequences of our thirst for energy....)

Dawn has a special significance in the Odyssey. "Rosy-fingered dawn" must be one of the most well-known epithets in the western world. If I recall correctly, it refers to the birth of Odysseus' journey and refers to his personal development as he is transformed by his harrowing experiences.

But this dawn is also the goddess Eos, who, according to myth, opens the gates of heaven so that her brother Helios, the Sun, can ride across the sky in an F-22.

According to Wikipedia:

[Eos] is most often associated with her Homeric epithet "rosy fingered" (rhododactylos)....

That brightest of stars appeared, Eosphoros, that most often heralds the light of early-rising Dawn (Eos Erigeneia).

—Odyssey xiii.93

Hesiod wrote:

And after these Erigeneia ["Early-born"] bore the star Eosphoros ("Dawn-bringer"), and the gleaming stars with which heaven is crowned.

—Theogony 378-382

This heavenly crown of stars reminds me of the Virgin Mary and the flag of the European Union which drew inspiration from her imagery. It would seem this is not merely a result of my ongoing (some might say obsessive!) interest in Marial imagery:

According to Hesiod, by Tithonus Eos had two sons, Memnon and Emathion. Memnon fought among the Trojans in the Trojan War and was slain. Her image with the dead Memnon across her knees, like Thetis with the dead Achilles and Isis with the dead Osiris, are icons that inspired the Christian Pietà.

Now, my interpretation of the intentional meaning of Odyssey Dawn ended with the idea that "odyssey" referred to a noble struggle and "dawn" a new day for Libya. Yet meaning becomes all the more richer when it feeds upon association and personally, I find these associations intriguing and meaningful. Intent at this point becomes irrelevant.

Finally, we have seen that the companion of Eos is Eosphoros, also known as Phosporous:

....a name meaning "Light-Bringer"...the Morning Star, the planet Venus in its morning appearance....
Another Greek name for the Morning Star....means "Dawn-Bringer"....

In Latin, the name Lucifer (Light-Bringer) corresponds exactly to the Greek term Φωσφόρος.

In Isaiah 14:12, the Septuagint version uses the word "Ἑωσφόρος" (Heosphoros) and the Vulgate "Lucifer" to translate Hebrew "Helel" (Venus as the brilliant, bright or shining one), "son of Shahar (Dawn)".

As an adjective, the Greek word is applied in the sense of "light-bringing" to, for instance, the dawn, the god Dionysos, pine torches, the day; and in the sense of "torch-bearing" as an epithet of several god and goddesses, especially Hecate but also of Artemis/Diana and Hephaestus.

These are intriguing associations. Not only are we dealing with the stars and signs which signal the new day, but illumination in a more metaphorical sense. Note the distinction between "light-bringing" and "torch-bearing". Torch-bearers of course illuminate the darkness, bringing knowledge and wisdom to overcome ignorance. But torches often have an association with the underworld. Torch-bearing deities not only bring light, but act as psychopomps, guides of the dead. An interesting series of gods are referenced: Hecate, goddess of death; Artemis, the huntress, Hephaestus; symbol of progress via technology (used in various flags and arms inspired by the industrial ideals of the French Revolution). Other than bombs, what other light are we bringing to Libya? As the propagandists would have it: a new day, democracy, progress. All the old jingo to gloss over the truth.

If I may bring us back to the aforementioned reference to Arthur C. Clarke, one theory I've read in fact points out that at the end of 2010: Odyssey Two, the planet Jupiter is transformed into a new small sun, eliminating darkness, inaugurating a new, "enlightened" era. This sun is dubbed "Lucifer". Interesting that two Odysseys can lead us to a light-bringing Lucifer....

But again, how does Odyssey Dawn refer specifically to Libya? Well, the Odyssey is generally assumed to have taken place in the Mediterrenean Sea and Libya, of course, is a Mediterrenean nation. One famous bit of the story is the encounter with the Lotus Eaters, which many have said takes place in Libya. Interestingly, aside from the narcotic aspect of this tale, the land of the Lotus Eaters was a land of plenty, rich in resources.

The Phoenicians were the first to establish trading posts in Libya, when the merchants of Tyre (in present-day Lebanon) developed commercial relations with the Berber tribes and made treaties with them to ensure their cooperation in the exploitation of raw materials. (my emphasis).

There's an interesting commercial back story here.

These raw materials were different from what we're after today (hint: it's black and gooey). But there's a even clearer Odyssean corroboration of this wealth:

Homer also names Libya, in Odyssey (IX.95; XXIII.311). Menelaus had travelled there on his way home from Troy; it was a land of wonderful richness, where the lambs have horns as soon as they are born, where ewes lamb three times a year and no shepherd ever goes short of milk, meat or cheese. Homer used the name in a geographic sense, while he called its inhabitants Lotophagi, meaning "Lotus-eaters".

Critics of Odyssey Dawn are not unaware of this wealth:

Vladimir Putin, ha[s] condemned the "mission" as an imperialistic project. It is viewed as an extension of NATO's effort to control the energy resources of the world by setting up puppet governments under the guise of democracy. The so called rebels in Libya may consitute a very small margin of Libyan society and predominately draw their support from tribal-based elites who lost their power when Ghaddafi came in power.

On April 15, 1986, the U.S. led another bomb-raid on Libya, code-named Operation El Dorado Canyon. Springtime, that time of renewal, would appear to the best time to plant bombs in Libya.

The myth of El Dorado originated as a "ceremony [in which a] new ruler was received, and was recognized as lord and king." In this rite, the king sprinkles himself in gold dust. This was transformed in the myth of a "Lost City of Gold". Searching for this city has led to the ruin of many a man, and the name is synonymous with blind greed in pursuit of illusory riches, synonymous, perhaps, with the bloody exploits of the Conquistadores, part mercenary, part missionary. Something like crusaders, actually.

El Dorado has given its name to a number of towns, places, products, etc., but the name used in the 1986 bombing was El Dorado Canyon, a place near Boulder, Colorado known for its copius quality rock-climbing possibilities. It was first inhabitated by Ute Indians, who were then pushed aside by European settlers moving in for agriculture and in pursuit of gold. An appropriate name indeed. At one point, the town of Eldorado Springs was formed, becoming known as a resort for the rich and powerful elite. That is, until it all burned to the ground in 1912.

On a final note, this El Dorado is a mythical city of gold, therefore vast wealth. Clearly, it's the black gold the coalition is after in Libya. But if we cross-reference our metaphors, we know also that gold is associated with the sun, with light and with wisdom. The alchemists' search to turn lead into gold was not so much about producing actual gold as it was a quest for the perfect wisdom. This reinforces my theory that the "dawn" in "Odyssey Dawn" represents a kind of wisom, or light.

One other thing the Libyans would do well to remember is that it was Odysseus who came up with the idea of the Trojan Horse. Careful what you let through the gates of heaven! Phoenicians, Spaniards, 49'ers, "coalition partners." Not much difference. Be prepared for a long and protracted visit.

3 comments:

  1. Great post, Daurade! I have three quick comments for the price of one:

    1. Lucifer: All of your "Lucifer as light" comments remind me of Gnosticism.

    2. Tyre: You mentioned the city of Tyre, which we previously speculated was involved with the Arc (source of light?) in the guise of a Fall Stone.

    3. El Dorado: Great job linking in that myth!

    4. ! Freebee! How operations are named

    ReplyDelete
  2. 1. Well, "Lucifer" has always been the latin name for Venus as the Morning-Star and means "light-bringer". How this came to be a name for the devil, I don't know. Okay, I just did a little check and it's too complex for a comment. Interesting thing is that in one Latin hymn, "Morning Star" is a title applied to Jesus and in another two, Mary.

    2. I try to work in the Phoenicians whenever possible, but it's especially relevant here cuz they're really the great forerunners of "global" capitalists....

    3. El Dorado....this would be a good jumping off point for a survey of lost, mythical or forbidden cities, islands, kingdoms, etc. A tall order.

    4. Great article! I have only skimmed it but I'm gonna print that sucker and have a look....

    ReplyDelete
  3. Signed onto one of my accounts just now and saw an ad for "Morningstar.com Premium Membership"....

    Haha. Littlewood's Law in action.

    ReplyDelete

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